Faculty and staff members campuswide have had difficulty connecting with their peers in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.
The first ever organization supporting MU’s LGBTQ employees formed earlier this month. About 27 people attended the inaugural meeting April 6, says event co-organizer Carol Snively, director of MSW and Off-Campus Programs for the School of Social Work.
For years, MU’s faculty and staff members have recognized the need for such an organization, says Ryan Black, director of the LGBTQ Resource Center, who also helped co-organize the meeting. “I’d have conversations from time to time with new faculty, and one question would be about the faculty LGBTQ group and how to get connected. I grew disappointed with not being able to have a solid answer for them.”
Meeting other LGBTQ and ally faculty and staff is but one benefit of this group. Knowing that one is not alone is helpful as well. “There is the social aspect of realizing that I’m not the sole queer person on campus, but there are others in my community who work in all departments at Mizzou,” Black says.
“It was fantastic to be at the meeting and see the different departments represented. Besides the social aspect, however, there are issues on campus that can be addressed, and the group would want to assist in that.”
Although the newly formed group has yet to develop a mission statement, vote on bylaws or even decide on a formal name, members did map out some goals at the first meeting, Snively says.
Among those objectives, the association will: communicate concerns, interests and awareness of members of Mizzou’s LGBTQ community; act as an advocate for recruiting and retaining LGBTQ faculty, staff and students; foster the educational missions of the university; and advance the recognition and status of LGBTQ individuals as viewed by the administrators, faculty, staff and students of the university and the surrounding community.
“I believe this faculty and staff association will provide social support to members, educate the broader university community about LGBTQ issues related to faculty and staff, and advocate for an inclusive work and academic environment,” Snively says.
The association specifically will want to raise awareness about the lack of domestic partner benefits for university faculty and staff members, Snively says. “Other issues include adding gender identity and expression in the University of Missouri’s nondiscrimination policy, and recruiting and retaining LGBTQ faculty and staff.”
Membership is open to faculty and staff members who are interested in the goals of the association, and all university and community members who are concerned about LGBTQ affairs.
Black says the next meeting will take place in May. With questions or for more information, call him at 884-7750 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.